The Toyota Crisis Calls for a Logo Tune-Up

Toyota logo

The bad news at Toyota is in overdrive. Since the recall of the Prius for its deadly acceleration problems, the carmaker has been hemorrhaging sales and consumer confidence. Now, even its luxury brand, Lexus, is under investigation for "stability" problems. Ouch!

Megabrands implode all too often. The bigger they get the more fragile they become. It may be as troublesome as unethical labor practices or just too many coffee shops. Most are expert at crisis management and eventually survive. In the best case they fix the problem and a forgiving public embraces them once again. However, there's always a lingering memory of a tarnished image that can compromise a brand whether it is Toyota or Tiger Woods.

As part of the recovery process some brands seize this occasion to refresh their brand identity or logo to signal positive change. This is usually coupled with earnest ad campaigns to help shore up brand loyalty.

Walmart logo

At Walmart for example, their logo change was introduced when they started to feel the heat from bad press about questionable environmental and HR policies. The change has lightened their image but it's up to them to mirror it in their behavior.

BP logo

In a prescient move BP became "Beyond Petroleum" to push the "green button" while looking ahead to our post-petrol world. But if their clean-up of the current spill off the Louisiana coast is not quick and complete, their green image turns to black.

 

Xe

Blackwater, embroiled in multiple violations in Iraq, including murder, changed to "Xe" (pronounced "Zee"), the most covert of logos for their continually covert business. However, maybe they're planning to launch a new fragrance line.

Great branding is not the design of the symbol or typeface. It's keeping the promise the brand identity projects. Proof? Even a logo by a legendary designer (Paul Rand) can't protect a toxic brand (Enron).

Toyota's problems are clearly beyond logo design. But what should they do with their brand if they weather their current tempest? I'm not certain and they haven't asked. However, having refreshed many brands over the years, I have a few suggestions on what they should avoid.

What do you think Toyota should do?

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Ken Carbone is among America's Most respected graphic designers, whose work is renowned for its clarity and intelligence. He has built an international reputation creating outstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany & Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie's, Nonesuch Records, the W Hotel Group, and The Taubman Company. His clients also include celebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, The Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the High Museum of Art.

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Armen Margarian

    I don't get the video! Just a guys with too much time on his hand :-(

  • Chris Reich

    Toyota should appoint a roving ethics panel that reports directly to the Board of Directors of Toyota. The ethics panel should travel Toyota's vast empire and look for unethical behavior---and talk to works about things they see but fear reporting.

    All reports should be presented to the board so that there is accountability at the top.

    How many companies have the guts to do such a thing? Few. Very few.

    Toyota doesn't have a PR problem or an engineering problem. Toyota has an ethics problem. People DIED in their cars for which the CEO is very sorry (bowing). Not enough. A new logo? Sure. AFTER fixing the ethics problem.

    Chris Reich
    www.BizPhyz.com